Louis vs. Limbaugh
In this column from December 30, New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis offers some wise words on the latest attempts to insert creationism into school science curricula:
Laugh if you want, but it's not funny. Kids around the country are being taught religion masquerading as science, in violation of the law. In Cobb County, before the kooky textbooks-with-stickers approach, students got specially altered books with blank pages where the evolution section belonged.
Small wonder that a CBS poll last month showed 55% of Americans believe God created humans, more or less complete, sometime in the last 10,000 years.
Evolution and the literally exhaustive geologic records that establish the Earth's multibillion-year age remain the most solid, well-proved science ever developed. It's not incompatible with the Bible, provided one is prepared to read symbol and metaphor into the Good Book, along the lines of interpreting each of the six days of creation in Genesis as a billion years or so.
Religious fundamentalists reject this approach, turning a theological error into an 80-year political crisis. The Supreme Court has twice struck down the far right's disingenuous “two sides of the controversy” approach as a transparent, unconstitutional effort to enlist government in the religion business. (Emphasis Added)
I especially like that bold-faced comment.
As part of his ongoing crusade to prove that he is, indeed, more ignorant than his brother, David Limbaugh offered this response. Let's consider a few excerpts:
In this NY Daily News column, Errol Louis vents more than a little frustration at “the loony right.” Louis is upset that “Religious conservatives are trying to upset Scopes vs. Tennessee, the 1925 `monkey trial' that struck down a law prohibiting the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution.” He then proceeds to cite a number of examples, and, in the process, terribly confuses certain concepts, including Biblical creationism and intelligent design.
Now, I am among those who believe there is no important difference between Biblical creationism and intelligent design. The latter is just a watered-down version of the former, offered for the sole purpose of finding a version of creationism that might pass constitutional muster. As it happens, though, there is a reason Limbaugh does not provide any examples of Louis engaging in this confusion. Louis, in fact, does not conflate ID with Biblical creationism. He merely describes both as bad science.
Here's his first example:
In Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta, the school board is being sued in federal court for ordering stickers to be placed inside science textbooks reading: “Evolution is a theory, not a fact.” A ruling on the case is expected soon.
But for our culture's indoctrination on these issues, Louis's reaction would puzzle me. Is he upset with the statement that evolution is a theory or at its mandatory placement in the science textbooks? I've been reading quite a bit about the problems with Darwinism lately, as well as the increasing credibility of Intelligent Design theory. It amazes me how much disinformation has been taught in our public schools, universities, and our culture in general on evolution. See Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What we Teach About Evolution is Wrong, Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Darwin on Trial," by Phillip E. Johnson, and Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, by Michael J. Behe, for starters.
Of course, I suspect that Louis, like all sensible people, objects to the simplistic dichotomy between theory and fact. As for Limbuagh's little reading list, we should point out that all four of the books he mentions have been thoroughly debunked. We might also point out that Denton's book was published in 1986, Johnson's book was published in 1991, Behe's came out in 1996, and Wells' appeared in 2000. Not exactly cutting edge stuff.
None of these books was put through any sort of scientific peer review before being published. Furthermore, the books by Johnson and Wells were published by explicitly right-wing publishers. This is a good lesson in how the right-wing game is played. First, establish a publishing house that will print any sort of scientific gobbledygook that happens to support a pre-ordained viewpoint. Then pass it along to an eloquent mouthpiece like Limbuagh; someone who is good at pushing the buttons of the zombie set. The merits of the arguments made in these books is not important, almost no one reads them anyway. What matters is that they exist, thereby allowing people like Limbuagh to say, “Hey! This guy says evolution is nonsense, and he wrote a book!”
Limbaugh's column goes on in this vein, hitting the usual ID talking points. As many other's have noted, right-wingers are remarkably good at staying on message. So Limbaugh repeats the tired old tropes about there being a bias against ID among academics, that ID folks just want to have a fair and open debate, and that ID is gaining steam as a scientific theory. All of it is nonsense, but that does not matter. In his role as a spokesperson for modern conservatism, Limbaugh works unencumbered by the need for basic accuracy.